Council QuickiesNews & Opinion

Council Quickies: Affordable Housing on the Agenda

April 24, 2023

Patrick Cannon
City council met on Monday night and discussed affordable housing and the Strategic Energy Action Plan, among other things. (Photo courtesy of City of Charlotte)

Charlotte City Council met for a business meeting on Monday night, with lots of affordable housing talk on the agenda and a few other key items.

ON THE AGENDA:

  • Strategic Energy Action Plan
  • Public Forum
  • Affordable Housing Development Fee Reimbursement Pilot Program
  • Other Business Items

Strategic Energy Action Plan & The Rook

Before moving into action review items, council had to pass its consent agenda. A member asked that one agenda item be pulled from consent for its own separate vote: a request from CMPD asking council’s permission to apply for a grant from the Department of Homeland Security that would fund a “Rook public safety vehicle” at the cost of about $500,000.

LaWana Mayfield asked if there’s been an incident in which this vehicle would have come in handy over the last five years. Staff, which had emphasized that the benefit of The Rook comes mainly in responding to bomb threats, said they hope they’ll never need it but that it can be loaned out to other area departments as well if needed.

That item passed 6-2 with Mayfield and Braxton Winston voting No.

Sarah Hazel, the city’s Chief Sustainability Officer, led an update on the Strategic Energy Action Plan, which strives to source 100% of municipal energy use in buildings and fleet from zero carbon sources by 2030 and to make Charlotte a low-carbon city by 2050.

City staff estimated that 59% of city-run buildings improved their energy performance from 2021 to 2022, with vehicle repair and maintenance facilities making the biggest improvement but still topping the list in terms of energy use.

The city is partnering with large corporate partners including CPCC, Honeywell, Novant and UNC Charlotte on Power Down the Crown, which provides in-depth data on energy efficiency in buildings, which accounts for about 50% of carbon emissions in Charlotte.

Much of the council discussion involved members stating they are thankful for the work of city staff in this area thus far but hope to see the SEAP goals refined to be less aspirational and more attainable.

Dante Anderson said she calls such aspirational goals BHAGs: Big Hairy Audacious Goals. She says BHAGs are OK if there are no unintended consequences of not meeting said goals, so it’s important to look at whether the city would be getting more or less traction chasing more attainable goals.

Dimple Ajmera encouraged council to keep the goals where they are rather than minimize them to make them more attainable. “Shoot for the moon and even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars,” she said, quoting Norman Vincent Peale (according to Google).


Public Forum

The first public forum speaker was Joseph Margolis, who jokingly requested the unilateral power to make one big change to Charlotte City Council: grant each council member a full-time salary and pay a full-time staff assistant for each member. He said the issue of pay should be prioritized over four-year terms, which council is currently pursuing as a possible change.

Jacqueline Richardson, founder of the nonprofit Private Friend Inc., to speak about the lack of mental health options for most of our residents, but especially for youth in Charlotte’s underserved communities. She would like to see more city funding for counseling and therapy.

Willis ‘Big Red’ Draughn Jr. addressed Charlotte City Council on Monday.

Willis ‘Big Red’ Draughn Jr. with Be You Be Great said there has been a crisis situation regarding residents at Magnolia Senior Apartments who were flooded out of their homes in January and have lived in hotels since. He says elected officials have ignored their pleas.

Garcia Nelson, also with Be You Be Great, says city leaders regularly ask for the help of community organizers but are never willing to provide funds for that help.


Affordable Housing Development Fee Reimbursement Pilot Program

Council discussed a proposed Affordable Housing Development Fee Reimbursement Pilot Program, which will provide grants to developers to reimburse eligible fees for qualifying development projects that incorporate affordable housing units.

If approved, the program would launch with $1.5 million from the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund to fund the pilot’s first year, which should cover three to four qualifying projects.

Ed Driggs said he’d be a No vote because it was the first he’s heard of it (committee briefed Council during council discussions on Feb. 6). Braxton Winston was also a No because he hasn’t seen evidence that giving hand-outs to developers will encourage more affordable housing projects.

That motion passed, with Winston, Bokhari and Driggs voting against.


Other Business Items

Council heard an annexation request for a 100-acre parcel along the Catawba River north of Mt. Holly Road. A representative for the landowners said the rezoning request had already been approved, so this was not about that, but simply to request annexation into the city for DOT and tax purposes.

The development planned for the parcel will include 258 single-family attached units, 159 single-family detached units, and 336 multi-family units. Council approved the request, with LaWana Mayfield casting the only No vote.

Council discussed whether to approve the new round of Housing Trust Fund projects, the details of which were discussed in-depth at the April 10 meeting.

Tariq Bokhari said he would be a No on all of the projects, as he believes the city needs a whole new approach. He acknowledged that affordable housing is a major problem but said that after five years on council, the multiple rounds of Housing Trust Fund projects aren’t making a dent in the crisis.

“It’s tens of thousands of units that’s the problem and we’re not even talking about thousands of units, we’re talking about hundreds of units here,” Bokhari said.

Those eight projects were approved with Bokhari casting the only No vote.

Council unanimously approved $2 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funding to be shared across three local nonprofits – For the Struggle, Habitat for Humanity, and Rebuilding Charlotte – to go toward the rehabilitation of 40 homes owned by low- and moderate-income homeowners.

Council unanimously approved a newly amended Law Enforcement Services District agreement, which will extend the consolidation of the Charlotte and Mecklenburg police departments that was first implemented in 1993.

CMPD will continue to service unincorporated parts of Mecklenburg County, including Mint Hill’s extra-territorial jurisdiction, Davidson’s ETJ, and the McGuire Nuclear Power Plant, but effective July 1, 2023, Pineville Police Department will take Pineville’s ETJ.

Council unanimously approved $630,000 in ARPA funding for three local commerce organizations: Carolinas Asian-American Chamber of Commerce ($250,000), Carolinas Chinese Chamber of Commerce ($130,000), and Latin American Chamber of Commerce ($250,000).


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